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• Social media users juxtaposed the headlines of two CNN stories about hydroxychloroquine by the same author from April and July 2020 in an effort to prove that the network was contradicting itself.
• The April headline said President Trump was “wrong in so many ways” about hydroxychloroquine, while the July headline said a study found that the drug “helped coronavirus patients survive better.”
• The stories did not contain conflicting information, and later versions of the July story had a longer headline that more clearly described the limitations of the study findings.
In the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 was coursing through the United States and the world, hydroxychloroquine became a household word as President Donald Trump touted the antimalaria drug for coronavirus patients and experts debated its efficacy.
But interest in hydroxychloroquine persists. A study published in May — on a "preprint" website that publishes studies that have not been fully vetted — said hydroxychloroquine boosts survival in coronavirus patients. Trump has since claimed he was right all along about the drug, a claim we found questionable.
In a viral Facebook post, social media users claimed that two headlines on stories by the same author show CNN published contradictory reports about hydroxychloroquine in April and June 2020.
The post, which juxtaposes images of the two headlines, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The April headline said President Trump was "wrong in so many ways" about hydroxychloroquine, while the July headline said a study found that the drug "helped coronavirus patients survive better." The conflicting tone, the post author argues in the accompanying caption, represents a "lie" by the media meant to impugn Trump.
The stories, though, did not contain conflicting information.
The April story addressed four specific claims Trump had made about hydroxychloroquine: when information would be available about whether the drug works against coronavirus; whether a French study of the drug was reputable; whether some people had tried to delay the trials of hydroxychloroquine; and whether the drug was safe for coronavirus patients.
The July story was about a different issue: the findings of a study by the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan about the survival rate for hospitalized patients who had been given hydroxychloroquine.
The only overlap between the two stories was the question of whether the drug is safe for coronavirus patients. The April story said that Trump called it safe, but that doctors said "the drug can have serious side effects." The July story said the Henry Ford study showed that hydroxychloroquine improved survival in hospitalized coronavirus patients, but it also detailed other researchers' skepticism about how the study was conducted.
For the July story, early versions of the headline matched the image in the Facebook post and said, "Study finds hydroxychloroquine helped coronavirus patients survive better," according to our analysis of the CNN webpage through the Wayback Machine, an internet archive service. But later versions of the story had a longer headline that more clearly described the limitations of the study findings: "Study finds hydroxychloroquine may have boosted survival, but other researchers have doubts."
A year after the two CNN stories were published, hydroxychloroquine remains unproven as a treatment for coronavirus.
A National Institutes of Health study published in November 2020, based on a randomized controlled trial — the highest standard of evidence — concluded that compared with a placebo, hydroxychloroquine provides no benefit to hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Social media users claimed in a Facebook post that the headlines on two stories by the same author show CNN published contradictory reports about hydroxychloroquine in 2020.
The April headline said President Trump was "wrong in so many ways" about hydroxychloroquine, while the July headline said a study found that the drug "helped coronavirus patients survive better."
But the stories did not contain conflicting information. The April story covered four specific claims by President Trump about hydroxychloroquine, and the July story was a report on study findings about the drug.
We rate the claim False.
Facebook post, July 10, 2021
FactCheck.org, "No New Revelation on Hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19," July 2, 2021
National Institutes of Health, "Hydroxychloroquine doesn’t benefit hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Nov. 24, 2020
PolitiFact, "Donald Trump’s 'I was right about everything,' fact-checked," June 14, 2021
PolitiFact, "Post overstates study’s ‘200%’ finding on hydroxychloroquine’s power vs COVID-19," June 14, 2021
Wayback Machine Internet Archive, "CNN — Study finds hydroxychloroquine helped coronavirus patients survive better," July 2, 2020, accessed July 15, 2021
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